Govt withdraws state adverts from radio, TVs in another mortal blow to media industry

 Principal Secretary for Broadcasting and Telecommunications Edward Kisiang’ani. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

In yet another move that deals a deadly blow to the local media industry, the government has withdrawn advertisements by state agencies from independent radio and television stations.

It has directed that all government adverts run only on Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).

This comes a month after the government made a similar move targeted at print media, directing all ministries and parastatals to only advertise in MyGov that is then exclusively circulated by the Star newspaper. 

The latest directive will mean that independent radio and television stations will be getting zero revenue from the government, as is the case with the newspapers, except for The Star. 

The move will limit the options that Kenyans have in accessing crucial announcements from the government.

It will also see media houses suffer significant reduction in revenues and could lead to a new wave of layoffs, further casting doubt on Kenya Kwanza’s plans to create jobs. 

In a letter to all state accounting officers Thursday, Principal Secretary for Broadcasting and Telecommunications Edward Kisiang’ani.

“All public sector electronic (radio and television) advertisements from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that fall under the national government, independent commissions and public universities shall be handled by KBC upon authorisation by the Government Advertising Agency (GAA),” said Prof Kisiang’ani in the March 7 letter to principal secretaries, chief executives of state corporations, chief executives of independent commissions and vice chancellors of public universities.

The move, which will further weaken the local media industry, comes against the continued refusal by the government to clear debts owed to different media houses. The government, through the Government Advertising Agency (GAA), owes different media houses upwards of Sh3 billion.

He said the decision was informed by the need to cut on wasteful spending and at the same time maximise on the use of the state broadcaster.

“It has been deemed prudent to initiate measures to ensure that as public sector advertisers seek to access their target audiences through campaigns and other statutory announcements, the government leverages on the provision with its realms to revive and fully utilise its institutions,” he said.

The PS said the directive is anchored in line with a 2015 directive that required all public sector entities to centralise their advertising. The Government Advertising Agencies (GAA) would be the coordinating institution.

“The centralisation of public sector advertising was in line with government’s desire to cut costs through a coordinated and well managed procurement process that ensures maximum service levels at minimal costs,” said Kisiang’ani, adding that this will avert future situations where the government ended up owing media houses billions for unpaid adverts.

“Similarly, the current situation where government owes media houses a substantial amount of money in pending bills calls for adoption of strategies that will ensure a smooth flow of public sector advertising while maintaining zero debt levels.

He added that directing all government advertising to KBC and in turn  minimising advertising spend was one of the strategies aimed at reviving ailing public sector entities. This is despite the other numerous areas of wasteful spending that have been flagged by institutions such as the offices of the Auditor General and the Controller of Budget and where the state continues to pump in billions. 

The PS also said this would ensure “that any public-private partnership is not skewed against public sector institutions”.

The directive comes weeks after the state dealt a similar blow to the country’s print media after it directed all its agencies and ministries not to place advertisements going forward. 

This is with the exception of one publication, The Star.

The directive requires MDAs to place all their print adverts in MyGov which is then circulated in The Star every Tuesday. 

This means that the readers of some of the oldest and widely circulating dailies in the country such as The Standard, Daily Nation and The People Daily no longer have access to any government advertisements of jobs, tenders and other important announcements such as appointments and statutory notices.

MyGov has previously been circulated through The Standard, Daily Nation, The Star and The People Daily. This was under a contractual arrangement signed between the media houses and the government. The contracts, however, expired in December, after which it signed a new one with The Star. 

The withdrawal of state adverts from the media is the latest assault by Kenya Kwanza on the industry. The regime’s senior officials have in the past openly been hostile against the press opposing its attempts to hold the government to account and inform Kenyans.

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